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Subject: Writer Robert L. Forward

Washington state
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Date Posted: September 25, 2002 11:30:32 EDT

Robert L. Forward, a science fiction writer who drew upon his work as a physicist to create novels highlighted by their rigorous devotion to scientific accuracy, has died. He was 70.

Forward, who put out his first novel in 1980 and went on to write 10 more, died in Seattle on Saturday of brain cancer, his son-in-law Ben Mattlin said.

As a physicist, he designed space tethers--filaments that could have a variety of uses in space in the future--and studied matter-antimatter propulsion. Uses of Forward's research and designs range from the propulsion system visualized in "Star Trek" to devices created by his company, Tethers Unlimited, for the Air Force and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

His fiction had a widespread following among science-fiction fans.

"I write science articles and science fiction stories as accurately as I can so that the reader will learn some science while enjoying a story," Forward once told the anthology Contemporary Authors. "However, I follow the rule: `Don't let the facts stand in the way of a good story.'"

His first novel was "Dragon's Egg." It and a sequel, "Starquake," are set on a neutron star with gravity 67 billion times stronger than on Earth, featuring beings called "cheela" that have a 45-minute life span.

"He said he'd advised so many other science fiction writers on the technical details of space flight and other futuristic esoterica," Mattlin said, "that he decided to give it a try himself."

"The Flight of the Dragonfly," renamed "Rocheworld," and four sequels are set on twin planets bound together by gravity. Forward's last novel, "Saturn Rukh," published in 1997, is set in Saturn's atmosphere and features giant two-headed flying creatures called "rukhs."

The holder of 20 patents, he did research at Hughes Aircraft Co. in Malibu, Calif., from 1956 to 1987 before co-founding Tethers Unlimited in 1994 in Washington state. On the non-fiction side, he was the author of "Future Magic" and co-author of "Mirror Matter: Pioneering Antimatter Physics," both in 1988.

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